May 23 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ resurrection

Read Luke 24:1-49

My husband, Keith, grew up on a farm on a dead-end road. There’s a sign by the end of the driveway warning ‘no outlet,’ and yet, car after car proceeds past it only to turn around when they realize the warning was, indeed, true.

Why do we insist on checking out all the possibilities only to find them dead ends?

Here’s a deeper question. Why are we prone to look for the living among the dead?

We knock on wood.

We hope for the best.

We dig deep within ourselves.

We consult all of the voices of wisdom at our fingertips.

And we find ourselves back at square one. Out of luck. Living far from the ‘best.’ Exhausted. Misguided, or worse yet, deceived.

Since the moment I first read it, the imagery of Psalm 115 has captured my mind and heart. We read:

“idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”

Dead.

All that we erect in our hearts and all that we bow down to rooted in ourselves and the world is dead.

There’s no help there.

No salvation.

No rest.

No hope.

But…

the resurrected Jesus showed himself to a couple of dead souls walking down a road. They were sad. Disappointed. Jesus had been their hope of a better present and future and they believed He was dead.

And Jesus did what he always does. He revealed himself as they could take Him in. He gave them some history. Some reasons why they might want to look His way. And then, when they got to their destination, He kept walking.

“Wait, please come in and stay with us!”

And He did.

Jesus, our living Savior, wants to be invited in to stay.

“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.”

Revelation 3:20

Our God is alive, relational, present, listening, speaking, tasting, seeing, and more! Oh, how I want to be like Him.

Do you?

Shelly Eberly

May 22 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ crucifixion

Read Luke 23:1-56

Raising of the Cross”

Rembrandt

The painting “Raising of the Cross” depicts the crucifixion of Christ. Notice the man at the foot of the cross wearing a blue painter’s beret.  Obviously, this man is not from the 1st century – this man looks out of place.  And yet, there he stands, lifting the cross with the others. Who is this man? 

It is Rembrandt himself, who has pictured himself at the foot of the cross.

Why did Rembrandt place himself at the foot of the cross as Jesus is lifted up, and crucified?   For no other reason than to tell the world, that he, Rembrandt, was a sinner.  His sins, like the rest of mankind’s, sent Christ to the cross. Rembrandt recognized himself as a man of rebellion, who chose repentance, and received redemption.

At the crucifixion of Jesus there were 3 crosses:

A cross of rebellion (Luke 23:39)

The cross of rebellion held the thief that remained bitter in his heart.  We see the rebellion in the Roman Government who was indifferent; in the crowd who was hard-hearted; in the Jewish leaders who were hostile; and in the thief who completely rejected Christ.  This thief saw and heard the same things that the other thief saw and heard, but chose to remain in a state of rebellion to Christ.

A cross of repentance (Luke 23:40-43)

At the cross of repentance, we have the other thief.  This thief acknowledged the justice of God in the punishment of his sin. He acknowledged Jesus as Lord.  His salvation was personal, secure, and guaranteed by the words of Jesus.  The cross of repentance teaches us that the way of salvation is simple.  The thief was saved simply by asking the Lord to save him.  Because this thief asked Jesus to be forgiven and to enter into paradise, he received redemption.

The cross of redemption (Luke 23:47)

The cross of redemption, on which Jesus was crucified and died, provided redemption for those who chose to believe.  Christ’s voluntary sacrifice at the crucifixion was a defining moment of Christianity. Christ’s last statement on the cross was, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

In this statement He:

Completed all Old Testament prophecy.

Completed the ceremonial law.

Completed the work of man’s redemption and salvation.

Man now has the ability to appear before a holy God,

man is reconciled to a holy God,

and man is considered righteous before a holy God.

Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent resurrection was the biggest defining moment of all! Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can have eternal life!

This is your defining moment!

You have a choice:

Remain at the cross of rebellion or move to the cross of repentance.

Jesus was in the middle of the 2 thieves.  Both thieves were guilty of sin and both had a choice to make with eternal results: life with Christ or a life without Him. 

Rembrandt chose the cross of repentance.  He knew that his sin put Christ on the cross.  Do you realize that your sins also, put Christ on the cross? 

What will you choose today?  Look at the picture again, but this time, picture yourself in the place of Rembrandt at the foot of the cross. 

I call Heaven and earth to witness against you today,

that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. 

So choose life in order that you may live….

Deuteronomy 30:19

Your choice, will be your defining moment!

Janene Nagel

May 21 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ temptation

Read Luke 4:1-13 and 22:39-46

“Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.”Luke 22:46

Recently, my wife, Birdie and I had pretty good seats for a Petra concert at the Akron Civic Theater.

One of their songs is titled, “Who’s on the Lord’s side?”

Wow! What lyrics!

“You’ve been running

…for a long time…

You better get right while

He may be found.”

“You better choose this day – tomorrow’s not promised to you.”

In Luke 22, Jesus said, “Get up.”

Are you actively working at and dealing with temptation? If not, this can lead to a falling of your faith.

Jesus is talking to His disciples, who were sleeping. They were exhausted, a time that a person is vulnerable to fall into temptation. Jesus was fasting and had not eaten in 40 days (See Luke 4). So, His hunger was great and His resistance was low.

At times like this, the devil seems to make temptations seem attractive.

We all have our weaknesses and temptations. It could be drugs, adultery, stealing, corruption, homosexuality, drunkenness, lying and more.

Be alert. Stand firm. Temptation is not a sin. But how we deal with it might be. You may have to turn around and run the other way. Ask God for direction.

Stay alert!

In Luke 4, Jesus was alert and He stood firm. He refused to give in to the temptation of Satan.

What a defining moment.

Then, having been repulsed twice by Scripture, the devil quotes scripture to try to tempt Jesus in 4:10-11. Jesus responded with complete trust in God (v 12).

“He got up from prayer, went back to the disciples and found them asleep, full of grief. He said, “What business do you have sleeping? Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.”Luke 22:45-46

Get up. Hit the devil with a scripture verse such as this one: “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Luke 4:8.

Memorize it.

Run from temptation. Run. Turn around and go the other way.

Pray for strength!

Tom Weckesser

May 20 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ baptism

Read Luke 3:1-38

When we consider that God incarnate would submit Himself to be baptized by a mere human, it is powerful.  The opening of the Heavens and the Spirit descending as a dove (Luke 3:23) are moments where Jesus hits a newly recognizable level;

Messiah. 

However, there is a verse in Luke chapter 3 that is set apart as a defining moment in this account. It reads as:

“Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’

Luke 3:12

The value of society’s collective hate for the ancient tax collector cannot be understood in full by our present-day culture.  It is hard to conceptualize the contempt for the ancient tax collector when Americans reap the value benefit of tax breaks that we get when we give to church and charity. I am not saying that any of us like paying taxes or that we don’t see deep flaws and live frustration among the political landscape and the IRS code.  However, our current tax brackets, write offs and refunds pale in comparison in generating the hate that the ancient world tax collector felt.  The ancient world collector was a cheat and liar who capitalized fortune off of common people while exploiting the poor.  But, in this defining moment, even the tax collector was baptized and (don’t lose sight of this), was baptized chronologically before Jesus the Messiah.

Luke chapter three is clear; John’s words were powerful, cutting and convicting.  He was bold and different. Who else had so boldly stood up for justice while calling for the repentance of sin (verses 3-9) among all people? He even had the tenacity to call out Herod, the tetrarch, on a godless marriage and “all the other evil things he had done” (verses 18-19).  This led to people thinking in their hearts that he must have been the Messiah (verse 15).  Yet, the one who was greater, the true Messiah, Jesus seeks baptism from John…just like the tax collector did!

This defining moment strengthens the reality of incarnation: God among sinful people.

Ancient religions throughout the world carry a similar theme: Powerful god/gods/goddesses existing in realms of superiority where the acceptance of the human race is contingent on approval measured by efforts, ceremony and ritual.  However, the one that stands defined, set apart exclusively, is the one where the incarnate walks in the footsteps of the tax collector and brings God to live among the level of those who need Him most.

Do you ever feel that what you have done holds you back from the full life you have in Christ? This defining moment is so powerful because even the most hated in that culture was responding to the good news of Jesus and finding new life in Him…even before His ministry started!

Who you were and what you have done doesn’t disqualify you from the hope of Jesus. In Jesus, you have forgiveness and a new life!

In what way have you discovered the glory of your new life in Christ? What impact has His forgiveness made in your life and in the lives of those around you?

Joe Rubino

May 19 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ birth

Read Luke 2:1-52

I don’t know about you, but one of the most defining moments in Jake’s and my life was when Mattie was born. Here we were, this young couple, married just under 2 years, with a baby about to be born. I mean, it was a lot and we still had a lot to mature in and figure out, even when it came to a successful marriage. There we were, welcoming a tiny human into our lives and hearts…everything changed as we knew it. Time was spent differently, Money was looked at more closely…

Nothing would ever be the same after this baby boy.

In Luke 2, we not only see the defining moment of a young couple’s life changing, but we see prophecy come to be fulfilled.

The story of Jesus’ birth is just the beginning of things changing for Israel and the Gentiles. Little did most everyone know that this tiny human would also be sovereign, save mankind, and go on to be one of the greatest teachers of all time. 

For so many years, people prepared for the birth of the Messiah. Not only prepared but did so with expectation and prepared with anticipation.

Now, here He was.

There is a song that the Worship team introduced our church to at Christmas of 2020 which always comes to mind when I think of the birth of Jesus. The lyrics read: 

You can see my promise
Even in the winter
‘Cause You’re the God of greatness
Even in a manger
For all I know of seasons
Is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second
Instead You sent a child, oh

Though the winter is long even richer
The harvest it brings
Though my waiting prolongs even greater
Your promise for me like a seed
I believe that my season will come
And when I finally see my tree
Still I believe there’s a season to come

Like a seed You were sown

For the sake of us all

From Bethlehem’s soil

Grew Calvary’s sequoia

You see, the defining moment of Jesus’ birth was so much greater than changing the lives of two young people…the Lord used Mary and Joseph as vessels to bring forth a greater plan that would be Jesus’ rise, fall and, ultimately, His victory.

One of the main issues people have with Jesus is that they don’t see Him for who He is. Jesus wasn’t just another baby, He was/is the Son of the living God! This baby would turn water into wine, heal the sick and raise people from the dead…including Himself! This baby would give His life so that those who believe in Him can have the hope of eternal life!

What place does Jesus have in your life? Are you actively giving Him the praise that He deserves? Just as this baby grew to change the world as we know it, He can and will do the same in your life, if you let Him.

Kelly Lawson

March 15 – Gospel Readthrough – Luke 24

Read Luke 24:1-50

I grew up during 60’s, so I got to see both the good and bad in people.  The way people were mistreated simply because of the pigment of their skin was horrible.  However, during that time there were several young strong leaders who offered hope to the downtrodden and mistreated. 

Leading the way were John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.  They stood up for what they thought was right and they each lost their lives at a young age because of it. Each one had faithful followers, who believed in their cause and had big hopes for the future.

Those great leaders died and you can visit their graves to this day. We only have their written speeches, videos and our memories of them to help us carry on what they started!

That first “Good” Friday, Jesus followers must have had similar feelings to ours in the 60’s. There was a promising leader, taken from them at a young age. They, too, had hopes of being free from the tyranny of the Roman rulers. Then just like that, He also was taken away, BUT GOD had other plans!

Jesus was alive again just as He said He would be! 

He walked, talked, ate, even was able to be touched! There was no doubt He was alive!  He appeared to not only His disciples but hundreds of others too. How could they possibly keep that a secret? From that point on, the gospel was spread to all the nations, not by the religious leaders, but by everyday people like you and me! Even the Roman soldiers are credited for spreading the gospel as they entered other countries.

Let that sink in. 

The people who had put Jesus to death and had seen Him die that horrible death on that old wooden cross, knew of His resurrection and thought it was important enough to tell others about it!

What about you?

Do you believe He was crucified and died on the cross?  Do you believe that, after 3 days in the grave, He rose from the dead just like He said He would? Do you believe He died for your sins?  Do you believe He is still alive?

If so, isn’t that news worth sharing?  Isn’t that news more important than the latest sports scores? When was the last time you talked to a neighbor, relative, friend or co-worker about your LIVING friend, Jesus, and how much He loves them?  

Do you put your hope in Him? He alone is the one you should look to for guidance.  He alone knows what is true and what is best for you, not rap singers, movie stars, talk show hosts, politicians, Presidents, bosses or even all your “friends” on social media. Earthly leaders live and die.  Jesus is alive and lives forever!

Trust HIM!

Pat Arnold

March 14 – Gospel Readthrough – Luke 23

Read Luke 23:1-56

I have spent hours of time watching the horrors of war unfold in Ukraine lately. If you have seen any of the coverage, you would agree that the Ukrainian people are suffering greatly.

It is heart-wrenching and almost hopeless.

I put myself in the shoes of those mothers and wives and can hardly imagine how I would leave my home with only a bag or two and leave my husband behind.  Several newscasters have commented how this is the first time we have been able to watch war unfold in real time. We don’t have to wait for the news to be relayed to us a few days after it actually happened. We are able to see the effects right away.

It made me think of the crucifixion of Jesus that we read about in Luke 23. Though not a war, it was definitely a significant event that many people from all over the world were interested in.  If newscasters could have broadcast the events leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection, would it have made a difference? Would people have understood more clearly His purpose? Or would news organizations have struggled to make sense of the politics involved and the dire consequences humankind faced without a Savior?

Tonight, we are coming to you live from Jerusalem. A short viewing with Pilate, the Roman governor, has ended. The crowds demanded Pilate arrest Jesus for inciting riots wherever He goes and making false claims about Himself. Pilate sent Jesus and the crowds on to further pursue their complaints with Herod Anitpas.

Now Herod is a person sure to take little pity on Jesus. He once beheaded his predecessor, John the Baptist. He will surely want to make a statement with his ruling. Stay tuned as we watch this trial unfold.

It isn’t hard to imagine a news scenario like this at all. We are so used to having the facts thrown at us, that we expect them to be instantly available and become frustrated when we have to wait. The crowd following Jesus’ trial would have heard the facts reasonably quickly as news spread throughout the angry mob.

However, they missed the bigger picture.

They missed that this was all part of God’s plan to redeem people. This had always been the plan. It was the only plan that would work.

As Jesus was marched through the streets of Jerusalem carrying His cross, being mocked and spit upon, news reporters would have given the play-by-play. As Roman soldiers drove the spikes into His hands and feet amid the crowds cheering and jeering, the report would have been conclusive that Jesus was being punished for His wrong-doing. However, news reporters may have missed the words of Jesus for the noise of the crowds. In verse 34, Jesus said, “Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing.” In verses 39-43, in the midst of being crucified, Jesus converses with the criminal next to Him. Without an ounce of selfishness, He said, “I assure you today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus comforted the man next to Him despite the agony they both experienced.

The news that evening would have proclaimed a victory for the angry mobs and Herod. The story not being told would be one that would have an eternal effect on you and me. The words to the Chris Tomlin song “Jesus Messiah” say it so well:

He became sin, who knew no sin
That we might become His righteousness
He humbled himself and carried the cross
Love so amazing, love so amazing

Jesus Messiah, name above all names
Blessed redeemer, Emmanuel
The rescue for sinners, the ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah, Lord of all

Let the report we give to people today be that of hope. Let the message be clear. Christ died for us because He loved us. He IS love. He is the sacrifice and Savior. His humble, amazing love rescues all of us from the sin that separates us from God.

What good news!

We must broadcast this message to our friends and family so that they will know there is hope of life everlasting with Jesus. Sing this song today and boldly share this wonderful hope we have because of God’s love for us!

Tammy Finney

March 13 – Gospel Readthrough – Luke 17-22 Review

The day after Christmas, Jeff Walter challenged us to draw closer to God by reading through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leading up to Easter.

This week, you read Luke 17-22.

We thought that it would be important, as we continue to make our way through the gospels, more specifically Luke, to pause once a week to reflect over what we have read so far.

A huge part of reading the Bible, or internalizing any kind of biblical truth for that matter, is application. How are you applying what you’ve read to your life? In what way are you going to become a more fully devoted follower of Christ as a result of your reading?

So, whenever you are reading this Sunday, March 13th, what lessons are you taking away from Luke 17-22? What stood out to you? What do you have questions about? I know there are a lot of takeaways from these chapters, but I challenge you to focus on even just one.

Take today to reflect on this past week’s readings and pray for God to open your heart and ideas to the principles you will receive this next week as we read Luke 23 through John 4.

Thanks for taking on this challenge!

FYI, we have a private Facebook group for this challenge where people can interact with others and share what they’re learning. If you are interested in joining this group, email Sharon (skarhan@woostergrace.org) to receive an invite!

Jake Lawson

March 12 – Gospel Readthrough – Luke 22

Read Luke 22:1-71

On January 17, 1988, the Cleveland Browns were playing the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game.  The Browns were trailing 21-3 entering the third quarter.  Bernie Kosar, the Browns quarterback, led the Browns offense to come from behind, to within 1 score of tying the Broncos. With 1:12 left in the game, Browns running back Earnest Byner fumbled on the Broncos 1 yard line, while trying to score a touchdown to pull within one point.  Despite being remembered for “The Fumble” Byner had a successful career.  Cleveland fans continued to love and support him.  He was traded and went on to win a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins in 1991.

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked 

Luke 22:31a

Satan desired to have Peter, but here we see Satan’s restraint.  His power is limited, but he is active.  His existence has been revealed and he has the will to destroy us, but not the power.

We are saved from his cruel and hellish hate by the intercession of Jesus.

to sift all of you as wheat.

Luke 22:31b

The process of sifting wheat is to loosen the chaff from the edible grain. The wheat is spread onto a floor and beaten till the chaff is broken loose from the grain. The grain is then thrown into the air, where the lighter chaff is blown off by the breeze and the heavier grain falls back to the ground. It can make for an uncomfortable truth that God allows us to be sifted as wheat.  Satan must ask permission before he can test us. And yes, sometimes God agrees, as with Job.  The idea that the enemy has to ask permission, means that there are times when it is denied. What we need to comprehend here is the Sovereignty of God.  We belong to Him. How many times has God spared us from this sifting? We are only aware of the “sifting” times, because the trials are real.  Nothing that happens in our lives is outside of His knowledge and authority. 

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.

Luke 22:32a

Peter was not promised that he would be saved from the sifting process. There are times when the “sifting” process, as it benefits the wheat, will benefit us.  When we are “sifted” as wheat, our faith is battered by the reality of our circumstance.  Jesus prays for the critical element of victory, our faith.  Peter’s courage failed but not his faith.

When we are “sifted” weaknesses are removed, failure is shaken away and our faith can shine.

And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Luke 22:32b

Jesus shares both a promise and a responsibility in this verse, when He told Peter he would “turn back.”  This is a promise of restoration.  Peter will be restored to his position with the apostles.  Jesus, along with the promise, also gives Peter a responsibility: “to strengthen his brothers.” This is a responsibility to serve, so that the victory in Jesus will be multiplied.  The sifting as wheat is a process that removes what is not of God and prepares us to strengthen others

Jesus promises Peter that he will recover after “the fumble” of his denial.  Those times when we experience a setback hurt, but they also allow us to show our underlying confidence in Christ.  The strength of our faith is judged by our ability to recover.  Jesus assured Peter that He had prayed his faith would not fail. This encourages us and gives us confidence that He sustains us, that we can be useful again to Him even after we “fumble.”

Janene Nagel

March 11 – Gospel Readthrough – Luke 21

Read Luke 21:1-38

This chapter has an intriguing beginning seeing that the rest of the chapter focuses on the End Times!  As I have taken time to reflect on this chapter I wonder if this is included to keep us focused on the right things.

Think about it for a moment.

The writer, Luke, starts the chapter by turning our focus to a widow who gives all that she has to give (21: 2). The rich give out of their wealth, but this woman gave out of her poverty (v.4).

POWEFUL! 

Her faith was so strong that she gave up all that she had. Luke is giving us a humbling story right out of the gate!

Now, jump to some of the final verses (v.34-36) and you see key phrases like, “Be careful…” (v.34) and “Be always on the watch, and pray…” (v. 36). Luke bookends a chapter on the End Times with a humbling story of the widow at the beginning and a sharp warning to be careful how we live and to watch and pray.

Now read the middle of the chapter (v. 5-33) as you think about your life because there are some scary things written in there. BUT THIS IS WHAT WE KNOW, if we are a follower of Jesus Christ, then we already know THE Way, THE truth and THE life and we can have hope! Although there may be challenging times, we know who wins in the end! 

Jesus! And therefore, we do too if we choose to believe in Him!

So, let us not get so caught up in the news of our time, but be informed as you watch the events of our time. As you do, let us be generous as the widow was with both our time and resources. Let us remember to be careful how we are living and where our hope is set…and that hope is set on Jesus! Then we can watch and pray so that we “may be able to stand before the Son of Man, Jesus.” (v. 36)

Oh…and do not forget how the chapter finishes… (What a finish!) “EACH DAY” the people came to hear Jesus at the temple…EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Let us spend time with Jesus!

Tim Boucher